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Second Vote on Disaster Aid Expected to Succeed

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected win the 60 votes needed to take up a House-passed bill that he wanted to use as the vehicle for emergency disaster relief.

The vote, set for Tuesday afternoon, comes after Reid failed in an attempt Monday night when he got only 53 votes in favor of moving to the bill.

“I believe there is an emerging bipartisan consensus,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.

One issue Monday that hindered Reid was that 14 Senators did not vote, including six Democrats who would likely have supported their leader.

Also, two Republicans who did not vote — Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas, which is battling wildfires, and Sen. John Hoeven from North Dakota, which has suffered flooding — might also back Reid’s effort to take up the bill.

Democrats have also been critical of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who had said disaster funding should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. He has since said the disaster funding will be able to fit within flexible spending caps set by the August debt ceiling deal.

House Republicans said Monday that they intend to put the disaster funding into the continuing resolution, which will be needed in order to give Congress additional time to pass the annual spending bills. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Durbin said that, while he would like to see the cost offset, he does not want the funds to become the center of a fight over offsets that would delay the delivery funding to victims.

“We have to pay for these disasters across America,” Durbin said. “Historically, we have taken care of those disasters and not subjected them to long-term political wrangling.”

He added that emergencies have been declared in 48 out of the 50 states and that funds are urgently needed.

One Senator who is likely to vote for the Senate to take up the bill is Republican Dean Heller of Nevada. He voted to do so Monday, adding that Nevada has concerns about wildfires and that he wants to make sure that his constituents get aid if there are any future disasters in his state.

“Obviously, I want it paid for,” Heller said. But, “I just want to make sure we maintain protection for the homeowners in Nevada.”

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